Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘War’ Category

STRANGE DAYS, WEIRD TIMES IN AMERICA

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Came across this article: The United States is visibly in an early stage of disintegration, as the Internet changes before my eyes. Tonight’s recommended read. Both the left and the right are claiming Internet censorship, both are right in that there’s a struggle to control the narrative on the Internet, but suggesting it is some monolithic entity like liberals (The Right’s Straw Man nonsense,) to the Tech Giants/government (In the Left’s fear that progressive views are being shut out,) isn’t supported by evidence or reason.  Damned if I know what is going on, but the times are a changing rapidly. Both America and the world are in difficult times.

The recommended article about the U.S. being in disintegration had some false arguments in it, but factually it was right on the money. By any rational metrics the US is way sick. All the gains in the economy the past four decades have gone to the people at the tippy top. Legalized corruption on a breathtaking scale. Our infrastructure is a decaying joke, our public education and health little better, the shame of the developed world. Our military eats up all the money the rich don’t get, and the rich profit handsomely from it to boot.

We haven’t won a war for decades despite massive military spending, but we have this global military empire fighting low level wars all over the planet. Is there some plan to this? No. And our new Caesar, Biden, has made it clear he’s going to keep it all up. So there’s that. And, well, half the white population is convinced that  all of America’s problems are caused by everyone else …  in this big violent liberal conspiracy to destroy America somehow. Freaking weird people.

And Covid is ravaging America like no other country because our ruling class is so dysfunctional. Isn’t that a diplomatic way of putting it? So it’s not a good look for the largest empire the world has ever seen. America is kind of the New Byzantine Empire. I could write a blog about that alone, but not tonight. Huge, corrupt, archaic, a hollow empire, not adapting well to the changing world. An empire where a rich province is struck by a natural disaster, and the results are far worse than they could have been because it is in a corrupt dysfunctional empire; and the Right blames the liberals and green power. Like Trump’s claims about election fraud, the idea that green energy and AOC(!) are responsible for Texas’s poor response to a blizzard are both silly and easily factually refuted. Future historians will have fun with America in the 2020s. I mean, I’m a contemporary, and it’s crazy to me.

On the plus side, sort of a side effect to all this madness, a Golden Age of Solar System exploration. NASA just landed the most sophisticated robot lander ever on Mars. It takes 3-22 minutes to get radio messages to Mars, so real time communication is impossible, probes have to do some things, like landing, by themselves. And this one, Perseverance, was the first one to land in a tricky area, chosen for its science potential; instead of all previous landers who tried to land in big flat areas. Science marches on.

The Perseverance rover is also going to gather samples to be picked up and returned to Earth on near future missions. I plan on continuing to blog until then. Though my erstwhile assistant wants me to try vlogging. She has a point. The deep freeze continues in Northern Iowa. No news about my father, he is alive or dead. Stay safe and warm everyone.  God bless. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: First image from the just landed NASA Perseverance Mars lander, with a photoshopped recent viral Bernie Sanders image. Attribution unknown, claimed as Fair Use under US Copyright Law.)

Written by unitedcats

February 18, 2021 at 8:56 pm

HISTORY QUIZ!

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As per a commenter’s suggestion, a history quiz. No particular topic but since my main interest is military history, that will be the lion’s share of the questions. Ten questions, some trivia, some obscure, most because I thought they were interesting in some ways. (Basically this is just an excuse for me to tell stories about history. People do the most amazing sheet.) Pencil and paper required if one wants to be serious I suppose. Answers at bottom.Good luck, enjoy!

  1. How many times was Greenland colonised? Including successful and unsuccessful attempts. By human beings, just to be clear. The 47 failed penguin colonies don’t count.
  2. What exotic animal did Roman Emperor Commodus publicly slay in the colosseum to demonstrate his godhood? (No, I’m not making these up, people do weird sheet.)
  3. Who was Gil-Galad’s standard bearer at the siege of Barad Dur?
  4. How many tanks did Germany build in World War One? (World War One, not World War Two, where they built thousands.)
  5. What was the only daylight surface battle between battleships in World War Two?
  6. Everyone (well, primarily Americans I expect) knows about the first battle between ironclad warships, the Monitor vs the Merrimac during the American Civil War. What was the only battle ever fought between two fleets of ironclad warships? (Hint, no, it wasn’t during the American Civil War.)
  7. What weapon did a fully armored knight typically carry into battle during the late Middle Ages?
  8. When the British attacked the City of Buenos Aires during the 2nd Battle of Buenos Aires, how many directions did they attack from?
  9. What was the greatest defeat of an American army by native warriors during America’s conquest of the western Americas?
  10. When was the only time an entire American army surrendered to an enemy army?

ANSWERS:

  1. Greenland was colonized at least five times, only twice successfully. Pretty good for a remote barely inhabitable island. There were at least two failed North American native colonizations before the Vikings arrived in 980. The Viking settlement failed due to being cut off from Europe by the Little Ice Age. While the Vikings were there, the Inuit settled in Northern Greenland, the first successful colonization of Greenland. The Viking colony died out, but they returned some centuries later in the second successful colonization of Greenland.
  2. Emperor Commodus went nuts in his later years, deciding he was Hercules reborn, naming Rome after himself and other nonsense. He “fought” many gladiators in the Colosseum, though none actually fought him, they were all wise enough to know that submitting right away was their only chance of living to sundown. And Commodus was still sane enough to know that killing men who submitted to him in public wasn’t wise. (He had no such qualms about killing men in gladiator practice. Gladiators were slaves by the way.) This was all considered outrageous by the Romans, as if the US President decided to take up WWE wrestling. The animal he killed to prove his godhood? A giraffe. While very few Romans had ever seen a giraffe, they could tell it was just a helpless terrified exotic animal, the killing impressed no one. Though it further cemented opinion that the Emperor was losing it.
  3. Elrond! What, fantasy history is history, right? (Recounted in the Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien.)
  4. Germany ordered only a 100 A7V tanks (see image)  during the course of World War One. The Allies built thousands. And only 15-20 of the German tanks were completed in time to see action. They didn’t change the course of the war of course, but they did get to be part of the world’s first tank battle.
  5. The Battle of the Denmark Strait. Two British battleships vs the Nazi battleship Bismark and cruiser Prinz Eugen. This is the one where the Bismark sunk the Hood with one shot, the flagship of the British fleet. One of the flashes in this film (taken from the Prinz Eugen during the battle blew up the Hood killing 1500 Brits. Three Brits survived.
  6. The Battle of Lissa, 1866, between Italy and Austria. A brilliantly led Austrian fleet defeated a much larger but incompetently led Italian fleet. IThe battle basically accomplished nothing except humiliating the Italians: The Italian fleet got home, its admiral declared he’d won a great victory even though two of Italy’s finest warships had gone down, and he was the toast of the town. He probably got laid, but that’s just historical conjecture. By the next day word got to Italy that no Austrian ships had been sunk, and the admiral’s partying days limply ended.
  7. A sword! No, of course not, what good would a sword do against a guy wearing steel armor? A hammer of some sort was their primary weapon, designed specifically to damage armor. The sword though was already steeped in mythology, and certainly was still widely in use, just not against guys wearing armor.
  8. 12. That’s right, they attacked a hostile city from twelve different directions. In 1808. This was part of one of Britain’s tragicomedy attempts to conquer Spanish colonies in South America. Britain made a number of attempts to seize the supposedly weak colonies from Spain’s decaying and definitely weak empire, all ended badly. In this case the British commander apparently thought the tiny number of Spanish troops in the city would be quickly located and defeated. And if the residents of the city had stood meekly by and watched, great plan. No, the residents, including quite a few actual militias (no bison horns, Chewbacca robes, or silly flags) didn’t particularly want to be part of the Spanish Empire (Argentina would be independent within a decade;) but the definitely didn’t want to be conquered and ruled by Britain. It ended badly for Britain, thousands dead all told and a humiliating surrender.
  9. No, it wasn’t Little Big Horn, that was just the most famous native defeat of American forces. It was in 1791, The Battle of the Thousand Slain, or as the less imaginative Americans called it, The Battle of the Wabash. Basically a poorly planned, poorly equipped, poorly supplied, poorly manned, and most especially poorly led American army marched into what was then the wilderness of Ohio to teach the natives a lesson for defeating an American army the previous year! Even the not particularly astute reader can guess how this turned out. 24 Americans out of about 1,000 made it back safely.
  10. The Siege of Detroit, during the War of 1812, America’s misbegotten attempt to make Canada the “14th colony” of the United States. Basically a brilliant British general psyched out the American commander, and tricked him into surrendering to a much smaller British/native army.

That’s that, some of this was from memory, if I made any egregious mistakes please excoriate me in a comment. I write history posts provoke thought and curiosity, not to recount history for academic purposes.  Don’t worry, more Trump antics soon enough. What a time to be alive. Future blog suggestions welcome. I hope everyone had a safe and warm weekend. I’m ready for spring. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Captured world War One German tank “Mephisto.” Australians captured it, hauled it back to Australia, where it’s in a war museum and is indeed the only German World War One tank still in existence. Photo taken in 1918 and is Public Domain under applicable copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 24, 2021 at 8:10 pm

WAS LINCOLN A MONSTER? THE DAKOTA WAR AND AMERICA’S LARGEST MASS HANGING.

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Today a trip down history lane, Lincoln and the largest mass hanging in US history. On 26 December 1862 38 Indians were hung by the US Army in Mankato, Minnesota. I’ve seen a number of memes and discussions on Facebook about this event, and frankly I’m usually horrified by how it’s portrayed and discussed. Mostly discussion involves just what a farce their trials were, and they weren’t even up to the standards of the day; plus throwing in Lincoln as the bad guy in all of this. Lately I’ve seen a number of memes etc. to the effect that Lincoln was some sort of racist monster. I hate black and white depictions of complex historical events and people, they usually leave a lot out.

In any event, The Dakota War, the event that led to this mass execution. Minnesota was a frontier state at the time, it had only been a state for four years. Yes, natives were treated badly by America pretty much from the get go, privately genocide was the often path taken by whites. Cultural genocide was the national policy. There’d been a lot of conflict as settlers moved onto land basically just stolen from the people living there. Thus a lot of resentment on the natives part. And one day a native hunting party massacred a settler family, and that instigated a general uprising.

Numerous bands and tribes began to kill settlers in a bid to convince Americans to flee the region. Between 500 and 800 settlers were killed, often in truly heinous ways. Several small towns were completely destroyed, all their inhabitants killed or taken prisoner. Initially there was little resistance because this was the height of the Civil War and there were no federal troops in Minnesota at all. It should be pointed out that not all the native bands and tribes in the region participated, a number of chiefs refused to participate, one even ordered his warriors to protect the American settlers living nearby.

Within months though a combination of hastily organized militias and federal troops fought and won a number of battles with the Dakota,  put down the uprising, and imprisoned hundreds of natives. The army tried over 300 of them for war crimes and sentenced them all to hang, 303 death sentences to be exact. And for the most part, Americans were just fine with this. The governor of Minnesota even warned that if they weren’t all hung, private citizens would enact their own retribution on whatever natives they could. We are talking about hundreds of settler families murdered, many memorials to those killed remain today.

And this is where Lincoln’s involvement comes in. He was, shall we say, kinda busy during this time. The Civil War was raging. He worked from before dawn to just before bed most days, his wife said she was lucky if she got 15 minutes of his company before he fell asleep at night. So he didn’t need to get involved at all, he could have just let the army hang all 303 prisoners, and that would have been that. That wasn’t Lincoln though, he personally reviewed every federal death sentence handed down during the Civil War, and he made no exception here. He had the trial transcripts, such as they were, sent to Washington, and over a month reviewed them all. And he commuted the death sentences of all but 39 of them, later commuting one more when a general wired him that new information cast doubt on one indian’s guilt.

And by every accounting, Lincoln was horrified by the corrupt and unjust way natives were treated, saying “If we get through this war, and I live, this Indian system shall be reformed.” He also said something to the effect that “You can’t hang an Indian just because he joined an uprising at his chief’s command.” Lincoln grew up on the frontier, and knew in fact how badly natives were treated. During the Blackhawk war he prevented his own men from murdering a native that wandered into their camp. Maybe if the Civil war hadn’t intervened he could have started reforms and maybe the whole damn uprising never would have happened.

So yeah, a shameful chapter in American history. As is almost all of America’s history with the natives, and it’s still not exactly something to be proud of today. When Reagan visited the Soviet Union and pressed them on their human rights record, the Russian premier brought up America’s treatment of its natives. Reagan said “Why, we treat them fine. I’ll meet with Indians any day to discuss their concerns!” When he got back to Washington, a delegation of native leaders was literally waiting in front of the White House to meet with him. He refused.

All that being said, I don’t see how Lincoln comes off as the bad guy in this. It seems popular these days to portray Lincoln as a racist, but the cherry picked quotes I have seen don’t support that. Yes, he did regard whites as the “superior” race, that was kind of the scientific view at the time. However, and it’s a huge however, Lincoln thought that meant it was more important than ever to treat them with the exact same dignity and justice as anyone else. This was a man who his whole life was concerned with justice and fairness. He wasn’t popular among his fellow lawyers for example because he charged people what they could afford, and wouldn’t take on unjust cases.

And I’m no fan of Lincoln. As I have said before “Lincoln didn’t free the slaves, he enslaved the rest of us.” Lincoln was the one that laid the groundwork for the enormously expanded bloated monstrosity the federal government is today. Maybe if he had lived to finish his work, the country might be a better place today. In any event, even allowing the “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart…’ I think that whatever the result, Lincoln was an honorable man trying to leave the world a better place than he found it. Something I would say of very few other presidents.

Tomorrow, more covid horror and Trump’s fantasy about winning the election gets ever weirder. Stay safe, warm, and sane everyone.  #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: “Attack on New Ulm” Oil on canvas, 1904, Anton Gag. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 2, 2021 at 6:41 pm

NO THANKSGIVING TURKEY FOR ME, POST ELECTION CRAZINESS CONTINUES, AND THE IMPERIAL DISEASE

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Here I was looking forward to Thanksgiving, and then I read this: Op-Ed: Thanksgiving is a tradition. It’s also a lie. I find the logic pretty persuasive. I wouldn’t participate in a Confederate flag waving parade or hanging black people in effigy no matter how traditional they were. Sigh. Growing up never ends. One would hope at least.

Let’s see, after meeting with Trump the Michigan lawmakers decided to stick with the law. Michigan goes to Biden by a comfortable margin. Georgia just certified Biden. Trump’s thin chances of overturning the election results in his favor just went from slim to microscopic. Trump continues to insist he was cheated out of winning, and his administration continues to refuse to coordinate with the incoming Biden administration. Unprecedented in American history.

Trump is also making all sorts of last minute global maneuvers to either box Biden in, or leave him with problems. An understated little side play in the war, while America is consumed with Trump’s election denial antics and an exploding pandemic that is killing thousands a day now. One person out of every 1,000 in North Dakota has died of Covid-19 now. If this was happening on Obama’s watch, the outraged screams from Trump supporters would echo across the Universe. Instead, they’re upset that California’s governor flouted his own virus guidelines. I digress.

The war, the one war. Started in the mid eighth century BC when Rome conquered its neighboring town, Caenina. That’s when the war started, the one the US is still waging today. Wait, what? That’s my theory on when what I call “The Imperial Disease” started. There were plenty of wars before and after that, but based on variations of “Kill them and take their land.” The Imperial Disease is the idea that you march in and say “You’re all Romans now!” Rome conquered most of Europe and environs, broke apart, but its parts continued to express the disease, finally cooperating to conquer the entire world in the so-called “age of discovery.” Where they discovered there was a whole world waiting to be claimed in the name of Rome!

Jesus, Rome, same difference. One of the symptoms of the disease is that people so afflicted think it’s normal and proper for their armies to run other countries. That’s why the US has been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years with nary a domestic peep. Spending staggering sums of money, not insignificant amounts of American lives and blood, to prop up a quisling government that will evaporate when we leave. But, you know, freedom and democracy flow from our cruise missiles!

Sigh. One of Trump’s few good points was his questioning America’s enormously expensive overseas empire. Granted he pretty much didn’t do crap to downsize it, but maybe if he pulls out of Iraq and Afghanistan now like he is threatening, we’ll learn something. We’ll learn that us pulling out of there was like pulling one’s hand from a bucket of water, the water stays right there unchanged. Gee, maybe we didn’t need to stick our hand in there in the first place?

Yeah, I’m reaching. I still think we’re screwed. See above image. In local news, I continue to recover from cancer surgery. And I got a new patron! Woohoo! Thanks! Stay safe everyone. Comments, suggestions, shares appreciated.#StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Anonymous meme found on Facebook, used without permission, attribution unknown, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

November 20, 2020 at 7:37 pm

954 YEARS AGO TODAY ANOTHER CONTENTIOUS RULERSHIP DISPUTE IS SETTLED

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October 14, 1066. It was a bright late fall day in Southern England. English King Harold and possibly 10,000 or more foot soldiers were arrayed on top of a hill behind a shield wall (that’s a line of men holding large shields touching or even overlapping each other,) both flanks protected by dense forest. Duke William of Normandy and about as many men were at the bottom of the hill, they were a combined force or archers, foot soldiers, and mounted knights. These 20,000 or more men were about to settle a critical political dispute. Who was to be the next king of England, Harold or William?

And they weren’t going to settle the issue with namby pamby things like votes. This was near a thousand years ago, political issues were settled with swords, and fought to the death. One can only wonder at what was going through the mens’ minds that morning (there were possibly a few women, but that’s speculation.)  They knew that by day’s end they might well be dead, or grievously wounded. That just meant they died a week or two later most likely. Many of Harold’s men were tired, especially the core of his army; they had fought a bloody but victorious battle at Stamford Bridge less than three weeks before. And had marched 270 miles (430 km)  in 2 weeks, that’s 20 miles (32 km) a day carrying heavy gear.

The battle started with the Norman archers attacking. They were shooting uphill at men behind a shield wall. Basically most of the arrows bounced off the shields or flew harmlessly over the top of the hill. And since the English had few archers, there were few English arrows to gather up and shoot back. After that, accounts vary. William’s foot soldiers charged up the hill at least three times and were beaten back. They almost panicked in the first retreat because a rumor spread William had been killed, he had to ride through his army with his face exposed to reassure his men that he still lived.

When the Normans retreated after an unsuccessful attack, by accident or design, groups of Harold’s soldiers pursued, and were quickly surrounded and killed once away from the shield wall. Harold’s two brothers were likely killed early in the battle this way. The end of the battle, this is the big mystery. Again, by accident or design, a group of Norman knights got through a gap in the shield wall, and hacked Harold to death. Or Harold may have gone down with an arrow in the eye. Or both. No one really knows, all we know is that sometime in the late afternoon Harold was killed, and his army quickly collapsed and ran. No point continuing to fight when the king is dead.

And that was the end of the last Anglo Saxon English king, and the last time England was successfully invaded. It’s not known how many men died that day. The Norman dead were buried in a mass grave whose location is unknown to this day. The English dead were left on the field, though some of their bodies were retrieved by their families.  2,000 dead Normans and at least twice that many of Harald’s soldiers is the best guess today. William’s legacy? Depends on who one asks. Probably the most significant event in English history between the Roman invasion and the 20th century. Some think that’s giving William too much credit, though it is certain that changes his rule started in England are still felt today. Whether his conquest was a good thing or a bad thing for England is debated by historians.

It was certainly a bad thing for the thousands that died that bright October day, and the thousands more that would die as William consolidated his rule of England and put down rebellions. At least back then most of the participants in wars were volunteers in one sense or another, civilians generally and wisely avoided battles. Long time ago, but still has connections to us today. Turns out a friend is a direct descendant of William. Small world … and William did have a lot of kids.

I don’t see Trump or Biden leading an army into battle, so their differences will be solved by other means. Tomorrow, more on Trump’s plan to let a million Americans pointlessly die. Whole other kind of perspective I suppose. Stay safe everyone. Comments, shares likes appreciated. Patrons especially appreciated, go to the link in the “Welcome to Doug’s Darkworld” blurb on the right. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings and the death of Harold. Credit: Unknown, likely commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother. Public Domain under all known copyright laws.)

Written by unitedcats

October 14, 2020 at 7:11 pm

Posted in History, Politics, War

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

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It’s funny how memory works. I got a housecoat for Christmas, the first I’ve had in decades at least. (And how did I get to an age where I can say “decades at least?”) Putting it on this morning I suddenly remembered as a child I had a red housecoat. And I used to wear it and pretend I was a Redcoat, a British colonial era soldier. Something I haven’t thought about since I was a kid, but the memory was still buried there waiting for something to trigger it. I think I read once that smell was the best sense for triggering old memories, and a quick Internoodle search confirms it.

Speaking of Redcoats, 141 years ago today, over 700 of them had a really bad day. The famous Battle of Isandlwana, where an army of Zulu warriors surprised and overwhelmed a British force of over 1,000 regular and colonial troops. Warriors armed as seen above, vs trained British troops with modern rifles and cannons. It was the worst defeat of British forces to an indigenous force in history, over 1300 dead. Basically the British had wildly underestimated the Zulu’s capabilities, and had split their invading forces into a number of columns. And this particular column was more or less a reserve force, commanded by a guy who had no real combat creds. Who had set up camp without any thought that it might come under attack. So when the Zulu main army was spotted a few miles away, they had little time to set up proper defences before 20,000 guys with spears and a bad attitude showed up. This defeat ended the first British invasion of the Zulu Kingdom. They shipped an even bigger army south for the second invasion, that did the trick. Whew, can’t have independent African Kingdoms, it might give people the wrong idea. Brown people that is.

A few days ago was the anniversary, well, two anniversaries of the sinking of two British submarines. K-13 sank on 19 January 1917 and K-5 on 20 January 1920. The K-class submarines were an ill starred design, a number of them sank by accident killing hundreds of sailors, none was lost due to enemy action. Basically the K-class were big submarines designed to keep up with the battle fleet, the idea at the time being that submarines would take part in major surface warship battles. It was a bad idea that never worked well in practice. The feature of these subs that really got my attention was that they were 103 meters long (huge for a submarines of the day) but their maximum safe underwater depth was 60 meters. In other words if they dived too steeply, their bow would be at crush depth while their stern was still at the surface. The astute reader can guess why so many were lost accidentally.

In my continuing adult education program, I went to see Andrew Yang speak last night. I was impressed, in fact I may get a MATH hat. I already hung a MATH sign in my window. MATH is Yang’s thing: Make America Think Harder. Can’t argue with that, thinking appears to be a lost art in America. He makes a big deal about making giant corporations pay their taxes, because it’s insane that Fortune 400 companies get away with not paying any taxes. And he points out that giving money to poor and working class Americans and cradle-to-grave health care would be tremendous stimulants to the whole economy, not just the economy of the rich, the economy Washington has been stimulating for decades.

One thing he pointed out that really made me think, is that life expectancy has been dropping in the USA the past three years. The last time life expectancy dropped in the USA was over 100 years ago during the 1918 global flu pandemic which killed over 500,000 Americans. And no, life expectancy continues to climb in the rest of the developed world, can’t blame a global epidemic for this one. And if Trump was really doing the bang up job he claims he is, how does he account for this? How do his supporters account for this? And if it’s not Trump’s fault, what is he going to do to fix it? Snort. I’m not holding my breath.

And speaking of global pandemics, the Chinese Coronavirus continues to spread. It’s not time to panic yet, but it is getting a little worrisome. The ugly truth is that letting people travel all over the planet willy nilly is a really bad idea, and sooner or later it means that the next global pandemic will be completely out of control before we can do anything about it. Another one for the “We’re not really an intelligent species” file.

There’s still all sorts of stuff going on in the Middle East, but that’s for another day. Comments and shares appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Zulu warriors in 1882. Credit: Unknown, Public Domain under US copyright law. It is from a book whose copyright has expired.)

Written by unitedcats

January 22, 2020 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Elections, History, Trump, War

IRAN, UPDATES, TRUMP, LIFE, SHEESH

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OK, Sunday night, Iran admitted their people accidentally shot down the airliner from Ukraine. Sadly not the first airliner accidentally shot down in a war zone, almost certainly not the last. The first was a Chinese DC-2 airliner shot down by Japan over China in 1938. (Image above, the Kweilin Incident.) The plane made a safe water landing in an attempt to escape, but the Japanese planes strafed it for an hour, so Japanese claims that the plane had “acted suspiciously” were not terribly credible. Big deal at the time, Japan’s image in the US suffered. The shoot down was likely an attempt to kill the Chinese president’s only son, but he had flown on another flight.

I literally just stumbled on Kweilin searching for the world’s first airliner shoot down. There are clear parallels to Trump’s recent targeted killing of an Iranian general. Japan was at least at war with China, Trump’s assasination, not so much. In any case, both were attacks on civilian targets under pretense of military necessity. Both were BS state extrajudicial killings. Maybe nothing will come of this, and it’s just another of America’s endless war scares with Iran. At the very least, it’s made me think.

Especially since I just read a great book about the Battle of Stalingrad, the largest battle in Earth’s history. The book made me realize the one great parallel between Trump and Hitler, the parallel from which all other parallels flow. In both cases, their rise to greatness was largely due to a happy combination of faith and circumstance. IE they were people whom history paved the way for, and they brilliantly took advantage of the opportunity. Neither of them was born to power, but they achieved it nonetheless. If one can’t give credit for that, you’re probably not a reader of my blog.

Moving on, when the German Sixth Army was surrounded and trapped at Stalingrad, Hitler was still a God to most Germans, including Germans who should have known better. And they just blithely assumed Hitler knew what he was doing, since so far his results had been spectacular. By the end of 1942 Hitler’s Nazi Empire stretched from France to North Africa to Stalingrad, deep in the heart of Russia. He was the greatest military genius of all time, what could go wrong?

The ugly truth was that Hitler had no freaking clue what to do, since the Russians hadn’t followed his playbook and collapsed. And the whole story and its ultimate horror for the German Sixth Army is a post or two for another day. Today, the parallel I’m pointing at is that Trump’s missile strike really does signal that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. I don’t think the repercussions will be as ugly as Stalingrad, but I don’t see any good coming out of it.

So, here is what I wrote before Iran admitted their forces shot down the airliner:

“At least Trump isn’t a warmonger!” Technically true, and a wonderful example of damning someone with faint praise I suppose. So yeah, whole Iran thing is still a mess. An airliner from Ukraine possibly shot down a few hours after Iran’s missile strike on US bases. Trump is now claiming the Iranian general he killed was going to attack four US embassies. And killing him prevented these attacks. The scary thing is that lots of people will believe it, even though it makes no sense on multiple levels. Sigh.

So the airliner, likely shot down by accident by an over alert AA military unit. That’s easily the most likely event. There are other possibilities, all unlikely and all scary. Scary because anyone who would kill a plane full of innocent people on purpose is scary. Governments tend not to do that. There have been shoot downs of commercial airliners before. The one over Ukraine a few years back, and the USS Vincennex shot down an Iranian airliner by mistake over the Persian Gulf in 1998. The later incident seems fairly straightforward, the Ukraine one less so.

Kind of odd that this shoot down involved a Ukrainian airliner. I suspect clarity for us worms will be hard to get on this one. Iran is paranoid and secretive, with every reason to  be so, and the Trump administration plays fast and loose with the truth. Let’s hope things calm down, way too many people dead for wa war scare, God rest their souls. 

Back to the topic on hand, Trump isn’t a warmonger, but that’s not saying much. He’s certainly appointed plenty, given the Pentagon free rein, and his cancellation of the Iran nuclear deal and subsequent pressure on Iran got this all rolling. You talk to Trump though, the Iran deal was a bad deal, and Iran was going to use it as cover to acquire nuclear weapons. All of the other major powers on Earth were fine with it, including our allies. American exceptionalism on steroids.

So I finished this book about the Battle of Stalingrad. Fascinating on so many levels. One of which is one of the parallels between Trump and Hitler. One of the parallels with most (all?) leaders who make it big time into the history books. A lot of their early, if not all, of their success is too to a combination of fate and circumstance. And if that gets one too far, the clash with reality can be painful.  

And we’re back to Trump and Stalingrad parallels. 2019 was a hell of a year, both personally and globally. 80 years since 1939, the year Hitler’s invasion of Poland set the world on fire for the second time in a century. The few people alive today who still remember 1939 were children at the time.

What a time to be alive. Of course, that pretty much always goes with the “I’m freaking alive!” thing, but still. Many of the humans since the invention of civilization have lived gruelling lives of backbreaking labor on an inadequate diet. I’ve managed to avoid that for the most part due to a combination of smarts and privilege. Which is why I am able to write this nonsense. And because I didn’t toil harder, I’m a failure in some eyes.Go figure. Writing is hard work too, as is all art. Another blog for another day.

Have a great week everyone. God bless.

I wrote the above a few days ago. Then life intervened. I still think we may be on the run up to an ugly war, stuff is still happening. A lot of it absurd

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: DC-2 being salvaged after the Kweilin incident. Credit:No idea, got it from this fascinating site. Because of its age and origin, going with Public Domain under US copyright law. )

Written by unitedcats

January 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm

SO FAR SO GOOD, HAPPY TO BE WRONG, KNOCKING ON WOOD, etc.

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Well, last night it seemed pretty sure Trump’s war with Iran was a done deal, now looks like cooler heads may be prevailing. Granted we’re not out of the woods yet, but Trump seems to have taken Iran’s retaliation for Soleimani’s death in stride. Iran apparently warned ahead about their missile attacks, and took other precautions to avoid casualties. Hopefully satisfying their need to retaliate without escalating the situation any further.

In more good news, the Philippines has approved the planting of Golden Rice. This is a GMO variety of rice designed to have extra Vitamin A, as large parts of the poor rice growing areas of the world suffer from serious Vitamin A deficiencies. Killing and blinding enormous numbers of children every year. Anti-GMO activists are outraged, but for once science and common sense won out. And Golden Rice is free to use, it was developed purely as a humanitarian concern. Basically ant-GMO activists don’t have a leg to stand on, and have been reduced to claiming Golden Rice is some sort of Trojan Horse. An insidious  plot to save millions of children from death and blindness to show GMOs are safe. I can live with that plot. So will millions of children.

Seeing a lot of anti-windmill propaganda on Facebook. It’s somewhere between funny and infuriating. Funny because the things they come up with don’t pass the laugh test. Infuriating because people innocently share them and spread misinformation. No, wind power doesn’t mean one can’t watch TV unless the wind is blowing, that’s not how power grids work. And yes, old wind power plants go into landfills. Of course they are completely non-toxic, and the space they fill up is beyond inconsequential compared to the staggering amount of toxic waste the equivalent in coal powered plants produce. And the good doctor covers the bird issue, basically the number of birds they kill is minor, and by being green, wind power saves far more birds than it kills.

Slow news day. Slow day in history too. The Battle of New Orleans was on January 8, 1815. This was where andrew Jackson got his big start to fame, as news of his victory and news about the end of the war reached the East Coast about the same time, forever associating them in people’s minds. The fact that the war was already over when the battle was fought, well, details. It wasn’t much of a battle either, the British commander was in early stage Alzheimers. He basically marched his troops straight at Jackson’s well fortified troops, who obliged by blowing them away. In any event the war ended because the Napoleonic Wars had ended, so the British were no longer drafting sailors off of American ships. And the real reason for the war, an American fantasy about bringing Canada into the United States, had failed miserably. So neither side was inclined to keep fighting, and the war ended officially as a draw.

Desperate for a story, I checked out an article about a Polish village where no boys have been born in a decade. It came to the world’s attention when they sent an all girl team of junior firefighters to some national event. Fame and fortune have followed. Well, minor fame, no fortune. I was intrigued, what scientific mystery could account for this? Then I read the story. Over the past decade, all girls. Yes, a whole dozen of them. Sigh. What are the odds of flipping a coin a dozen times and getting all heads or tails? A few thousand to one. In other words, there’s no mystery here, just a statistical fluke. People get excited about the silliest things.

In personal news, walking last night I noticed Venus was particularly bright in the sky. I stopped to gaze at it, and there was a bright flash about a Moon’s diameter away from it. I thought it was a plane for a moment, but no, just one flash. Never saw anything like it before. All I can imagine is that it was a small shooting star coming straight at me, so I just saw a flash, not a streak. It was right after I heard the news about the Iranian missile strike, so it was a bit unnerving.

And speaking of which, waited all day, looks like the shooting war has been postponed. Phew. The Iranian response to Trump’s attack was proportionate, and Trump seems to have accepted it. Him and his administration lied about all sorts of stuff, but that just goes with the territory. If nothing else happens, I’ll write about other stuff. Using the cool picture I found (above) in hopes that I won’t need it to illustrate a post. Flaming optimism.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Painting, The Apotheosis of War 1871 Credit: Vasily Vereshchagin 1842-1904 Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 8, 2020 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Iran, Iraq, Trump, War

TRUMP’S INTERNATIONAL SUCKER PUNCH, WHAT’S NEXT?

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Iraq_seaborne_crude_oil_exports_by_destination_in_2017_(31760972217)

Trump has threatened Iraq with terrible sanctions if they ask US forces to leave Iraq. Yes, America, our commitment to respecting democracy and sovereignty only extends to those who do our bidding. Nothing new here sadly. It should be pointed out, again, that sanctions hurt the people, especially poor people, of a nation first. So they are a form of collective punishment. And if anything they increase support for the hardliners.

Also, Iraq’s oil goes to a lot of countries, not sure how they will view sanctions. A lot also goes by pipeline through Turkey as well, the above chart is just oil tankers leaving through the Persian Gulf. We are talking the world’s 12th largest oil producer, so sanctions are going to hurt the world economy. I can’t see sanctions as being good for America either.

And it’s reported that Soleimani was on a diplomatic peace mission between Iran and Saudi Arabia. I don’t even know how to parse information like that, it certainly could be true. Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia benefits if there’s a big war in the Persian Gulf. Nobody does. I don’t trust any particular news sources now. It goes without saying that anything the Trump administration or the Democrats say should be taken with an oil tanker full of salt.

Again, this raises the question, what is Trump trying to accomplish? I’m still not clear on that. I am not sure he is clear, though it’s clear that acting tough and bullying seem to be part of his plan. It’s not clear to me that he needs a distraction or is making some calculated move to get re-elected by being tough on Iran. It might energize his base, but it’s certainly not going to get him a lot of support on the general street. The majority of Americans are tired of our endless wars, Trump’s (now broken) promises to back off on them are part of the reason he got elected.

To simplify, Trump’s attack was basically outright war. Now we’re just seeing what happens next. The US started this, since at least the early fifties the US has been messing with Iran. This article has a factual timeline, even if the author’s attitude annoys me. Little countries don’t start wars with powerful countries, though powerful countries often claim their chosen victim started it. Germany claimed Poland attacked Germany in 1939. Russia claimed Finland attacked it shortly afterwards. The US and the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The list is endless.

There’s now a rumor the US ordered an Iraqi pullout, being denied now. Or it was some sort of draft letter. One wonders what Trump will do if Iraq formally requests our departure? Will we invade again? The Bush invasion of Iraq was one of the most botched invasions in history, I find it hard to imagine Trump’s team will do better. I’d wonder about Congress maybe doing something about this blatant disregard for the Constitution, but with the Senate in Trump’s control, I can’t see anything big there. As for Americans taking to the streets in millions, not yet.

Here’s a good article that covers stuff not seen on MSNBC or FOX. Here’s another one, long but interesting read. I can tell from the BBC and what is coming from my housemate’s room that the situation is still critical. I’m still out of sorts. Arms company stocks are up, and if my current reaction is common, beer sales are up. It’s not my imagination, Trump’s attack is a big deal and it’s likely to lead to bad things.

And if the Trumpers are right and somehow the US and the Middle East end up much better off because of this targeted killing I’ll eat my words. Stranger things have happened. That’s the beauty of reality, it’s not obligated to conform to our expectations. Keeps me guessing.

Your thoughts and shares appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Iraq oil tanker oil graphic. Credit: From Wikipedia, Public Domain in one fashion or another.)

Written by unitedcats

January 6, 2020 at 6:47 pm

Posted in Iran, Iraq, Trump, War

WAR DRUMS

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Well, so much for writing fun sciency or history posts. Stuff just keeps happening in Trump’s confrontation with Iran. I will write on and off during the day, updating when necessary. The first development is Trump threatening to attack 52 Iranian sites if Iran retaliates for the US’s targeted killing of a popular Iranian general. Hundreds of thousands have turned out for his funeral. The general’s, Trump is still with us. And Iraq just voted to expel all US troops from Iraq. Gee, they don’t want any part of Trump’s war with Iran, and they certainly don’t want it fought in Iraq. Who would have guessed? And just now, Iran rolled back the 2015 nuclear deal.

I’m not sure what Trump is trying to accomplish by making threats. It’s bizarre that his airport attack is presented as some sort of defensive move or preventing a war. Now if anything happens, he has backed himself into a corner. And gave Iran cover for rolling back on the nuclear deal. Which isn’t going to make our allies happy. And how will Trump respond to that? It’s not like harsher sanctions are an option. Worse, anyone who wants war between the US and Iran just has to fake an Iranian backed terrorist attack. If it’s spectacular enough Trump will really be on the hot seat. I can’t see any good about a war with Iran, but some organizations and even some governments would. Certainly I’m seeing people saying Trump is Israel and Saudi Arabia’s puppet, there’s some truth to it for sure.

It should be pointed out that Iran is closely aligned with Russia and China, which again highlights the absurdity of “Trump is Putin’s puppet” codswallop. And the administration idea that general Soleimani was some sort of American murdering terrorist plotting to kill more Americans doesn’t seem to have any evidence backing it up. Staggering amounts of nonsense all over Facebook and the media. At least we seemed to have backed down on Trump’s threat to attack cultural sites.

Trump should be happy, he’s destroyed the 2015 Nuclear deal with Iran, one of Obama’s signature accomplishments. Hopefully that’s the worst of it, but sadly burning oil facilities and a worldwide economic jolt are still very much an unpleasant possibility. Bombing Iran isn’t going to fix anything, nor will it engender regime change in Iran. Not exactly sure what Trump is trying to accomplish, if he manages to bluster through this without making it worse he’ll get my approval.

I am just trying to get my thoughts down and published. Some of my friends are refusing to watch the news, it’s all pretty depressing now. I have no idea what’s going to happen now, anyone who says they do is deluding themselves. “Everyone is loyal to the nightmare of their choice” though, as the good colonel said in Heart of Darkness. This often leads to bad things. I hope it all blows over and I can go back to blogging about cats.

I’m reading a book about the Battle of Stalingrad, some light reading to distract me from the news. Hope everyone is having a great weekend. Thoughts and shares appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Digital art. Credit: Pixabay, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 5, 2020 at 5:03 pm